SATURDAY, Jan. 17, 2009 - B Wilber (Artist's tone-blending technique used in "Mona Lisa" / 6/23/75 cover of Sports Illustrated / Trunk protuberance)
Friday, January 16, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Richard Nixon (or, none)
Word of the Day: SFUMATO - The blurring or softening of sharp outlines in painting by subtle and gradual blending of one tone into another. [answers.com]
This felt dead on for a Saturday, maybe a little easier than average, and certainly easier than yesterday's puzzle. I had no alcohol in my system this time, so maybe that has something to do with it. Typical slow start in the NW, followed by a tentative toe-hold in the NE, followed by a steady march counter-clockwise around the grid, ending at the intersection of SFUMATO (1D: Artist's tone-blending technique, used in the "Mona Lisa") and MEG (19A: 2004 U.S. Women's Open winner Mallon). That "M" was a guess - SFUMATO just sounded so much more plausible than SFUPATO. SFUMATO and its Italian counterpart TORTONI (13D: Dessert garnished with crumbled macaroons) were the only two answers (besdies MEG, I guess) that I found truly baffling, and both could be inferred pretty easily (TORTONI moreso than SFUMATO). Though I could not retrieve it today, I'm sure I've seen PEYO before (10D: One-named Belgian cartoonist who created Smurfs). I am too old to have watched the Smurfs cartoon, but I do like comics and follow at least one Belgian comics blogger. Belgium and France have a thriving comics industry; as in Japan, comics have been adult reading there for years and years. My most recent contact with the Smurfs (!) occurred when I visited a website where an artist had laid out his plans to develop a "Smurf War" graphic novel (or possibly animated movie). The artwork he did was SenSational. Let's see if I can find it... Ha, here we go. What do you know? I finally used the "Bookmarks" function of my browser effectively.
Lots of Nixoniana today, with two actors from two Nixon-related movies: JOAN ALLEN from "Nixon" (59A: Player of Pat Nixon in "Nixon") and RIP TORN from "Blind Ambition" (38A: Player of Richard Nixon in "Blind Ambition"), a 1979 television "docu-drama" I'm too young to have seen (well, I could have seen it, but I doubt that, at 10 years old, I would have been very interested). Nixon was of course a WESTERNER (64A: 34-Across sporter) who was born in Yorba Linda and went to Whittier College. I don't know if he ever wore a BOLO TIE (34A: Range accessory). Somehow, I doubt it.
Lots of stuff that I learned from crosswords, including OOCYTE (21A: Future egg). That's possibly the fanciest occasionally repeating word that I've learned from crosswords. Sadly for me and my fancy education, I learned who ATTLEE was from crosswords (52A: Landslide election winner of 1945). Same thing with ERITREA (39D: Its flag features an olive branch inside a wreath), which shows up surprisingly often in puzzles. The crosswordy KNAR (5D: Trunk protuberance) was possibly the first word I put in the grid, though it went in first as GNAR, which is also a (cross) word; KNAR was followed by RIEL, which I was able to guess because of crossword experience (20A: 100 sen), and PELE (51A: Legendary athlete on the 6/23/75 cover of Sports Illustrated) and IPOD (55A: Player in a docking station) were likewise no-brainers. At four letters A POP (22A: Pricing words), there weren't many other options. Gimmes for me included SNAPE (63A: Head of Hogwarts School's Slytherin House) - who goes nicely with SNIPE HUNT (29A: Futile search) - "D.O.A." (40D: 1950 film that opens with a man reporting his own murder), and E. LEE (54D: Part of a noted reb's signature), though I briefly contemplated DANL here, if only because it's signature-related and I learned it (from crosswords) recently.
- 17A: Vents (unleashes) - very difficult to see at first, as I had SSA at 9D: Certain card issuer: Abbr. (SSS), and so had ---EASHEA. Thought it was either Latin or something to do with the Mets' former stadium
- 47A: Whence some spaniels and terriers (Tibet) - I went through dog breed books quite a bit back before I had dogs, and I remember these guys pretty well.
- 48A: N.C.A.A. rival of Vassar (RPI) - I'm still not used to Vassar's being a co-ed school. RPI stands for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It's in Troy, just outside Albany.
- 61A: Word after Vanilla or Chocolate, at Dunkin' Donuts (Kreme) - mmm, kommercial.
- 14D: Only Mouseketeer personally chosen by Walt Disney (Annette) - that's ... I'm torn between "interesting" and "creepy"
- 31D: Buzz generator on Wall Street (tip) - I really don't want to think about that Street right now, thanks.
- 44D: Wallace _____, Pulitzer winner for "Angle of Repose" (Stegner) - had STEVENS, then changed it.
Here's a Wallace Stevens poem for your Saturday:
The Emperor of Ice-Cream
Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.